Programme director's handbook

Curriculum design glossary

Below you will find definitions of the terms used in these curriculum design instructions.

Aligned curriculum

Designing an aligned curriculum means setting clear goals for teaching and ensuring that the contents and assessment methods form a consistent whole. From a student viewpoint, aligning curricula at the programme level is a central factor contributing to well-being during the studies. 

Alignment in teaching | Aalto University

Competence-based education

Competence-based planning of teaching starts with identifying the academic and general competences specific to different disciplines as well as understanding generic competences. The goals for education are expressed as intended learning outcomes and the teaching is planned in relation to them.

Competence-based approach and intended learning outcomes | Aalto University

Completion method

The method in which the course may be completed. At Aalto, there are three completion methods:

  1. Participation in teaching (a regular lecture course with lectures, exercises, a final exam etc.)
  2. Examination (The student does not take part in teaching. Credits are earned by taking an examination.)
  3. Independent work (No study events, study material is available for the students, and they complete the required work independently.)

When the student wants to complete a course, they choose a completion method and take part in the corresponding course implementation.


A unit of study specified in the curriculum. It may consist of one or several study attainments. Courses have one or more completion methods. Once the course is completed, it is marked in the student information system.

Course syllabus

Details on the course implementation provided by the teacher to specify the course information included in the curriculum. Such details may include more specific information on the assessment criteria, lecture contents, etc.

A course syllabus is made for each course implementation. The syllabus is published on MyCourses no later than three weeks before the beginning of the course implementation. In the course syllabus, the teacher may provide more detailed information than that given in the curriculum regarding for instance, assessment criteria, working methods or lecture contents. The course syllabus thus gives more specific information than the curriculum.

The course syllabus is also known as the course brochure. 

Degree programme

A goal-oriented programme consisting of several study modules and leading to either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Degree programmes have specific goals and degree requirements. The degree programme may have alternative study modules, such as specialisations, options, or majors. Degree programmes may have elective study modules. Degree programmes may have one or several languages of degree.

In the Aalto curriculum design instructions, the instructions given on degree programmes concern also doctoral programmes, unless otherwise specified.

Degree requirements

Studies required for the completion of a degree under the Government Decree on University Degrees (794/2004), the regulations of the University Academic Affairs Committee, as well as the degree regulations and curricula.

Degree structure

The entities defined in the degree regulations (see bachelor’s and master's degree, doctoral education) that make up the degree. The degree requirements of a degree programme must be formulated in line with the degree structure.

Doctoral programme

A goal-oriented programme consisting of several study modules and leading to a doctoral (or licentiate) degree. 

Generic skills

Generic skills or shared competences are general skills that are needed in higher education studies or in the working life in addition to in-depth knowledge of the field. Generic skills are often referred as soft skills or transferable skills.

Inclusive teaching 

Inclusive teaching means that teacher creates an equal and comfortable environment for all students to study. 

Agreeing guidelines for inclusive interaction in course | Aalto University


Implementation refers to a single instance of a course being given. Implementation takes the form of one of the completion methods described above (participation in teaching, examination or independent work). Usually implementations are tied to certain time and place. In everyday language usage, implementations are often referred to as courses.

Intended learning outcome

Intended learning outcomes (ILO’s) describe what a student is expected to know, understand, or be able to do after completing a degree programme or course. ILO’s are often expressed as knowledge (knowing), skills (acting) or attitudes (being). 

Competence-based approach and intended learning outcomes | Aalto University

Responsible teacher / other teachers for a course

Each course must have at least one responsible teacher with the overall responsibility for the implementations of the course. In addition to the responsible teacher, several people may be involved in teaching and grading a course implementation. They should be announced in the timetable information for the course implementation.

Study time allocation

Study time allocation means estimating the study time invested by the student for the learning related to the course to achieve the learning outcomes and complete the study attainments required for the course.

Course workload and study time allocation | Aalto University


Workload refers to the time spent on the course by the student (and teacher) and also his or her experience of the workload of the course implementation.

Course workload and study time allocation | Aalto University

Other instructions related to this topic

People sitting around tables

Curriculum design practices at Aalto University

An aim of curriculum design is a programme that helps students acquire the competence they will need in their field in the future and to acquire it within the target time frame. On this page, you can acquaint yourself with the Aalto University practices, processes, actors and roles involved in curriculum design.

Programme director's handbook

To the main page Curriculum design at Aalto University

biz students

Curriculum design at Aalto University

Aalto University’s curriculum design guidelines and schedule aims at supporting sustainable, future led degree programmes.

Programme director's handbook
  • Published:
  • Updated: